Homework and Practice

Homework can increase student understanding when assignments provide the opportunities needed to and apply new learning. – Northwest Regional Educational Consortium

‘Kay. Show of hands. How many of you like homework? … Anyone? … Bueller? … Bueller?

Most of us have an ancient, wired-into-our-DNA hatred for HOMEWORK (just typing the word caused me to gag). So… good news and bad news.

If we aren’t good at something we tend to lose quickly, so if you’re zoning out in class, it may be because your skills in the current subject ain’t cuttin’ the mustard. Here’s the bad news; homework–and more specifically, practice–is really the best way to develop certain types of academic skills. Calculus currently kicking your kiester? Much of the research shows that practice is what you’re probably missing. Those who practice math more tend to score higher on the math portions of standardized tests*. Come on; you know it’s true! Skill-based abilities–sports, playing musical instruments, solving math and chemistry problems, etc–respond positively to practice.

*Check out Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, Outliers, for more details.

Now the good news. Practice does not have to mean brain pain. Fact is, thanks to something called “the interwebs,” invented by Al Gore, practice can often be fun. Maybe not as fun as a greasy mouse in a room full of declawed cats, but certainly more fun than nude hockey. So get thee to thy search engine and find a game to help you with whatever class you’re currently crying over. You will be amazed at what’s out there, from typing games to folding proteins, calculus to conjugation. Mention your favorite learning games in the comments!

And don’t wait for practice/homework to be assigned. Get all proactive on those studies. First, identify your problem areas. Next, find a game, some practice exercises, or a helpful video online and get cranking. You’ll be blown away by how much easier it is to focus once you’ve worked up some mad skills. Personal example; math ain’t my thang. I did pretty well on the SAT and GRE quantitative, but not as well as I maybe should have; not ideal for a GRE/SAT prep instructor. So I set to work practicing those areas of math which didn’t come so easy to me, and now I actually enjoy GRE math problems! I know! Freaky. But it’s so much easier to maintain focus now that I like what I’m doing and actually feel like I have some skills.

Lemme sum up; struggling in a subject causes you to lose focus; practice can reduce the struggling; so find online resources such as games, videos, and tutorials; and use them to beef up your skills, and–voilafocus!

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.


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